Shawn Maxam discusses how old-school ideas of masculinity inhibit true intimacy
Affection is responsible for nine-tenths of whatever solid and durable happiness there is in our lives.
-C. S. Lewis
Machismo is defined as: A strong or exaggerated sense of masculinity stressing attributes such as physical courage, virility, domination of women, and aggressiveness. I tend to agree with this definition but I would argue that a lack of emotional affection and awareness are a strong component of machismo as well.
I also would argue that machismo can be genderless. Women can also exhibit traditional characteristic of machismo. Being macho can be very destructive in intimate relationships. I would make the claim that the most important aspects of intimate relationships, including friendships and romantic partnerships, are emotional affection and spiritual (using the word in a secular sense) nourishment. The stressors of the outside world can be very debilitating to your self-esteem and mental health. The people you truly trust and hope to receive zero judgment for your flaws and mistakes should be the same people who are willing to repair the damage done to you daily by everyone else.
But much too often our closest friends, family members and romantic partners don’t encourage and foster a safe space where this vulnerability can happen. We have become a society of problem-solvers instead of problem-feelers. In other words, instead of being emphatic to the needs of the people we claim to love we become critics who want to fix what we see as wrong with their lives.
Emotional affection isn’t something easily defined—but you feel it when you receive it. It is being uplifting and kind. Being understanding and forgiving. Listening more and speaking less. It is being tender when the rest of the world is harsh. The best way I can describe it is how great parents interact with their children. They pick them up when they fall down…literally and figuratively. These parents tell their children everything will be okay even if they aren’t sure it is.
As we grow up and become adults, we lose this desire to nourish ourselves and others emotional, mentally and spiritually. The next time you speak to someone you care about instead of using the words “Are you okay?” use the phrase “How are you feeling?”. The former already answers the question whereas the latter allows the person you are asking to create their own answer. How are you feeling is the phrase good therapists use with their clients.
Let go of the machismo. Whether you are a man or woman. You don’t have to be aggressive, dominant, emotionally unavailable and exhibit a lack of emotion. Together we can redefine the paradigm that defines masculinity. It starts with you. Inside your heart and your mind and within your home, and between you and those you care about the most.
Photo courtesy of stickwithjosh